My son wanted a pet. And since a new lizard or puppy or pet squirrel (you read that right) was out of the question, he wanted a cat.

So we went to our local Humane Society and got the only kitten they had at the time. He was found walking lost down the street of a local town. But it didn’t show. He was just perfect. He cuddled up right away. His eyes were soft and friendly. He was one of the family. My son named him Charlie.

It was the best of times.

Who said cats are not social? You can literally hear Charlie purr across the room when one of his humans is holding him. He greets us with a kiss when we get home. He plays fetch with us – we call him our Canine Cat. He comes to us when we call him by name. And he follows my son around the house like, well, a little dog. He brings us all together in a shared mission of joy.

It was the age of wisdom. The epoch of belief. The season of light. The spring of hope.

But when I look into Charlie’s inviting eyes, I remember another kitten, Moses.

We found this frightened little creature under our back porch. We guessed he was abandoned by his mother, but we couldn’t figure out why. Maybe it was a mistake. Maybe she was in an urgent hurry to escape danger. But the fear of danger never left little Moses’s eyes.

It was the worst of times.

My daughter who is trained to work with victims of trauma coaxed Moses out of hiding with her patient and gentle ways. There may have been a little food too. She befriended him, but I don’t think Moses ever really trusted her implicitly.

We visited with him daily. We gave him food and water. Once my son brought him a fish he caught in the river. Moses briefly rejoiced over this gift, but he disappeared with it under the porch. We brought him into our sunroom, although he mostly just stared at us from the corner.

He was vigilant. Always. His eyes were scared, untrusting. He was ever on guard. He never purred. He had a wild look about him.

We gave him a little bed in our garage because it was a very cold winter that year. And for all his wildness, he needed no training to use the litter box. He was most polite and civilized in that way. But you could never get him to relax. To cuddle. To purr.

We thought all our love and longings would be enough to domesticate this forsaken feline. It was our shared mission of grief.

But it was the age of foolishness. The epoch of incredulity. The season of darkness. The winter of despair.

And one day, Moses just disappeared. He was last seen creeping out of our garage early in the morning. But he never came back.

When we were adopting Charlie, I told the lady at the Humane Society about our once feral cat. She nodded knowingly and said that some lost cats seem to always carry their ghosts with them.

That’s it exactly. That describes Moses.

Recently my youngest daughter (whom we adopted from a Chinese orphanage) asks, “Why is Charlie so nice?” (She’s comparing him to Moses, I think.) “Did he have a nice mom?” she asks slowly and carefully and hesitantly.

That’s a tough one. Because I’m not sure what’s behind that question.

Because people are a little like cats. They carry their wounds with them. And sometimes those scars make them hard to approach, frightened, skittish even.

And even the nicest mom in the world might not be enough if she doesn’t get to nurture her little one through the earliest months. Even the nicest mom may leave some ghosts to carry in that case.

Continue reading “A TALE OF TWO KITTIES”


hope in the middle

I was asked to share a little of my story with some women at my church the other day.

Darn, I thought. I wish she would have asked me six months from now instead. Then some of my stuff would be resolved. I’d have a real story to tell…then.

But you see, I’m still in the Middle. So many loose ends to tie up.

I really think the speech therapy and special tutoring my youngest daughter is receiving will have kicked in by then. And my adult daughter with disabilities will probably have a job by then – that should be a good story…a happy ending. And I think my other child’s future should be clearer, and we’ll have the results from the tryout for my third….

If only she’d asked me in six months.

But instead I’m here with a half story. Still waiting.

And I hear a door slam somewhere in my house, and I’ve got a text from my daughter to please pray, and I don’t think my son is working on his homework yet, and my husband is still processing the same work problem.

And I’m still in the Middle.

But I remember a story someone told me 30 years ago in her small London kitchen as we were washing up the dishes after dinner. It challenges me to rethink the Middle.

Continue reading “HOPE IN THE MIDDLE”



Identity. Whoever we think we are shapes our view of the world. It is a point of view. Point of viewing everything else. It is a controlling factor in how we make choices, what we grasp for, what we hold tightly to. It directs us. Blinds us. Makes us… or defeats us. So I need to think carefully about who I am.

I am not a homeschool mom.

Feels strange to write that.

I have homeschooled my kids for 18 years.

And I have loved homeschooling. When people asked how it was going, I would light up and say, “I’m learning so much! Oh, and my kids are doing great too….”

I used to read curriculum magazines for fun. And I made the most wonderful, lasting friendships in that community.

But lately, homeschooling wasn’t working as well for my family, and it was beginning to threaten my way of life.

It happened gradually. I just didn’t think my children were thriving. They were passing…but not becoming.

And so the “S” word became a topic of conversation. And prayer.

For several years in a row I prayed about School. My husband prayed. My mother prayed. My mother-in-law prayed. It just became a part of the fabric of my prayer life. “Lord, if school is the best thing for my kids….”

But it always stopped there. Once we visited a local Christian school. But that was it.

And so I began my school year last fall with this prayer: “Lord, I’m homeschooling again this year. (Surprise.) But Lord, if you know that school is really the right change for my children, please give me overwhelming wisdom.” That was my prayer. Overwhelming wisdom. I reasoned with God that a little wisdom wouldn’t get me there. My inner gravitational pull was toward homeschooling. I loved it. And I knew it. Only overwhelming wisdom could compel me to take a different direction.

That school year was a testimony to Overwhelming Wisdom.

It came in many ways, but this one was key.

It was One of Those Days. Kids were bickering. Lessons were limping. Even a belligerent No came from my children on that morning.

This isn’t working, fear gripped my heart.

I looked directly into the angry face of one of my children and thought, You are ruining my vision for my life.

Continue reading “RETHINKING WHO I AM”


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“Now I know you are a mother,” my father says quietly as he watches me lean over my firstborn baby’s incubator the night before her heart surgery, whispering prayers and singing “Jesus Loves Me” in broken verse.

It wasn’t the decorated nursery or the nine months of anticipation or the little pink clothes folded neatly back home that had convinced him. It was the desperate petitions of a bewildered woman who had entered almost unknowingly into that Priestly Vocation of Motherhood.

Alan Cole, in his commentary on the book of Exodus, explains that a priest is someone set apart for a special relationship with God and for the service of God. A priest is to be both God’s representative for another person or people, and God’s representative to another person or people. He stands between heaven and earth, in a sense.

I think that being a Christian mother is an invitation to the Priesthood.



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I see a blue and white comforter spread across my lap when I remember the beginning of this journey. How appropriate. Who knew that Blue would be the color of Autism Awareness Month so many years later….

I was waiting for the phone call. My husband had met with the surgeon the day before, and now he paced the sterile halls of Johns Hopkins Hospital waiting for word of how it had gone.

“We need to finish the heart surgery in 20 minutes. At 25 minutes, she will lose the function of her legs. At 30 minutes ….” He had informed us.

How we prayed! How we watched the clock tick by!

My sweet baby was only four days old. Five pounds was all she was, but every ounce was precious to us. We called her Grace.

We knew while I was pregnant that something wasn’t right. The day after she was born we met with a specialist who laid it out for us. Correctable heart defects now, possible kidney issues, hearing would probably be a concern. Oh, and growth and thyroid to watch for.

No one knew that autism would be added to the list, or that autism would end up being the biggest concern of all.




My daughter received some discouraging news yesterday. The friend she was hoping to room with is having second thoughts about where she wants to live for the next year. Which is fine, except Katherine was making her plans around community and friendship, and, well, it’s just another setback…disappointment.

Seems like there are just so many of those. Disappointments.

Don’t I know it. I remember throwing away about ten to fifteen prayer journals that went back YEARS because they were horrifyingly filled with the exact same prayer requests over and over again that were not answered. It was embarrassing! It was frightening.

Sitting at the kitchen table, I tried to lead my daughter in another brainstorming exercise of other possible job opportunities she could seek. Other locations. Other communities. But it came down to this: she was afraid. Afraid that once again it wasn’t going to work out. Afraid to be alone.

And I’m afraid for her and with her. Just so many prayer journals….

Continue reading “STONES & SCORPIONS”